Probably the most ready (Photo: Blueshirts United)
It doesn’t matter if you liked what happened on Tuesday or hated what happened on Tuesday. We are all Ranger fans, and we will all cheer for the team. What we can all agree on, based solely on numbers, is that some of the kids in Hartford are going to need to step up and take a roster spot. When I say numbers, I mean this:
In: Dan Boyle, Tanner Glass, Mike Kostka (AHL: Steve Kampfer, Matt Hunwick, Chris Mueller, Chris Bourque, Cedrick Desjardins)
Out: Anton Stralman, Derek Dorsett, Brad Richards, Brian Boyle, Benoit Pouliot, Raphael Diaz, Justin Falk
Seven NHL players left the Rangers on July 1, and only three came back. The defense was more or less a one-for-one swap, with Boyle replacing Stralman and Kostka replacing Diaz (Falk I consider to be a #8 defenseman at this point). So, barring any trades, the Rangers are pretty much done with the defense. It is also unlikely we see Dylan McIlrath or Conor Allen on Broadway this year. The roster numbers just don’t work.
As for the forwards, one forward came in and four left via free agency. If you assume Glass takes Boyle’s spot on Dominic Moore’s left, that leaves two RW spots open for competition (or a 3LW and 4RW, as Mats Zuccarello can play both sides), and a 2C/3C. There are really only three names that come to mind when it comes to kids on the cusp: J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast, and Oscar Lindberg.
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Some quick practice notes this morning, aside from the end of John Moore’s suspension. First, Cam Talbot was not at practice, and there is no update on his status. Talbot suffered from an undisclosed injury in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals, and has been day-to-day since. Also, J.T. Miller, who hurt his shoulder in the Eastern Conference Finals, is good to go. Miller likely won’t get action unless there is an injury, but he adds some decent depth in that scenario. Both of these bits come from Andrew Gross.
Alain Vigneault announced yesterday that J.T. Miller would be returning to the lineup, probably in light of the Dan Carcillo suspension. Some doubt may have been cast when Derick Brassard announced he would be returning tonight, but now with the confirmed news that Derek Stepan will be out with his broken jaw (not surprising, despite what Doctors Gallagher and Briere say), it is certain that Miller will play tonight.
No lines have been announced, but my guess is that Brassard skates on the top line with Rick Nash and Chris Kreider. Dominic Moore would slide into the third line with Mats Zuccarllo and Benoit Pouliot, and Miller would play on the fourth line with Derek Dorsett and Brian Boyle.
As Rangers fans bask in the glory of a scrappy but successful series victory over the Flyers there’s not much time to look ahead to the Pens series. With that said, we thought we’d share a few thoughts on the Rangers so far.
Benoit Pouliot coming on strong
Pouliot has taken costly penalties and is anything but a complete player, but as the year has gone on Pouliot has developed into a core Ranger. As part of the Rangers’ best line for most of the season Pouliot has to be retained. His goal against the Flyers was a great example of why the Rangers need him. Pouliot drove to the net and was rewarded after a great pass from Zuccarello. It’s a simple concept but not enough Rangers get to the dangerous areas, Pouliot did and was rewarded. He should (and surely will be) rewarded with a new deal.
Stralman was immense in Game 7 against the Flyers. Games like that are why the Rangers should find a way to keep him, but those types of all action performances aren’t quite frequent enough to warrant the money Stralman will likely demand. When he’s on his game he can make a good first pass, he’s a good skater, he is willing to throw his body in front of pucks and is a pretty smart hockey player to boot. It’s a shame he can’t put all those aspects together consistently.
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The Rangers have recalled forward J.T. Miller from the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack. Since the Pack did not make the playoffs, their season is over, and Miller can benefit from watching the games as a healthy scratch. Miller will sit with fellow “rookie” Ryan Haggerty and the other healthy scratches as part of the taxi squad for this year’s playoffs. Don’t expect Miller to get any ice time, unless the Rangers are overcome with injuries to their forwards.
It’s just tough love.
There’s a specific reason why I waited a little bit to address the comments Alain Vigneault made about J.T. Miller yesterday. First, there was a ton of over reaction from the majority of the fan base, and we wanted to let that subside. Second, I wanted to let the comments settle in before I addressed them. If you missed the comments, AV called out Miller’s work ethic and commitment:
“He just hasn’t earned the right to be at this level on a regular basis,” Vigneault said, hours before the Rangers-Avalanche match. “He needs to show more commitment on the ice and off. Until he does that, he hasn’t earned the right.”
“J.T. has to figure it out, and hopefully he will,” Vigneault said. “When he does, we’re going to have a good player. If he doesn’t, he will be a good minor league player.”
Let’s not sugar coat this, these words are a clear message to the former first round pick. You have to work hard on and off the ice to succeed at this level. It’s a lesson that all kids must learn. But that’s just it, a lesson.
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The Rangers have returned forward J.T. Miller to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL. Miller was called up after the injury to Chris Kreider, going scoreless in the first two games following his call up. Miller was a healthy scratch the previous two games before his return to Hartford.
The Rangers have recalled forward J.T. Miller to the NHL. Miller was almost called up on Monday as an emergency replacement, but this call up is for real, and will count as one of the four post-trade deadline call ups allowed for the club. Miller will –hopefully– slide into the top-nine, with Chris Kreider out at least a month with a hand injury. In 28 games with the Rangers, Miller has a line of 3-3-6, including a line of 1-1-2 in his most recent three game stint post-Olympics. In that stint, many (admittedly, myself included) believed Miller had taken that next step and that he was ready for The Show. This is his chance to prove it.
J.T. Miller was sent back to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL today, likely to make room for the returning Mats Zuccarello. Miller was called up as an injury replacement for Zucc, notching a goal and an assist and averaging 12:30 in ice time in his three games.
I still can’t get used to Alain Vigneault’s steady line combinations after four years of John Tortorella’s incessant juggling, but Vigneault has stuck with the same combinations for quite some time now. It’s worth nothing that the Rangers finally turned a corner this season thanks in no small part to the team’s balance and chemistry up front. Mats Zuccarello has been the team’s best forward so far this season and a key cog in Vigneault’s formula, but with him lost for likely another week or two (not to mention the upcoming trade deadline), Vigneault will be forced to rejigger his preferred trios.
Throw in the fact that winger Derek Dorsett is ready to return from a broken fibula and 20-year-old J.T. Miller, who has been dominant in the AHL, was recalled last night, and it’s tough to predict what Vigneault will end up with. It’s probably most likely that Vigneault will be forced to try several different new looks – which might not be settled by the trade deadline in three games, throwing us back to square one.
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